For the past several years now, there have been a growing number of Filipino American artists who are actors, actresses, directors, playwrights, and professionals who have been major contributors in the Greater Seattle theatre community. Among them is Eloisa Cardona.
Eloisa was influenced at a very young age by the live performances of the world-renowned Bayanihan Dance Troupe, the premier National Dance Company of the Philippines, during the 1964 World’s Fair held here in Seattle.
In the 1960s, the Bayanihan was under the leadership of National Artist Lucrecia Urtula. Urtula went to Mindanao, to the Cordilleras, and almost every Island in the Philippines to look for katutubo ethnic Filipinos to dance their own ancestral ethnic or tribal dances. She captured their movements and translated them onto the stage for Bayanihan dancers to revive, interpret, and preserve.
Eloisa’s experience with the Bayanihan encouraged her to receive instructions on Filipino Folk Dance from two icons of the Filipino Community: Dorothy Cordova and Dolly Castillo. Since those formative experiences in the performing arts, she also sang in her Cleveland High School Choir and Vocal Ensemble, participating in their yearly spring musicals. But acting always held her fascination. After graduating from high school, Eloisa went to Seattle Central Community College where, among other things, she took an introduction to theatre class. From then on, she knew she didn’t want to be a business major. After transferring to the University of Washington she became serious in pursuing an acting career. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Drama.
As she shares her passion for acting, she explains to me what she and other Filipino American artists would like to see happen with their own careers. According to Eloisa, regardless of ethnic background, their audience is not just Filipino Americans or Asian Americans, but the general society as a whole. They want the theatre to be reflective of current populations. Gone should be the days of “traditional,” all-white casting in known classics, i.e. Shakespeare, or even contemporary plays where certain roles are not ethnically specific, or being cast only for Asian roles. But in a theatre scene where the voices of other ethnic groups are now being added, such as Latino, Vietnamese, Indian, and Middle Eastern to name a few, the Filipino presence, voice or point of view have been missing quite substantially. Eloisa wants to help bring stories of being Filipinos in America out into the theatrical consciousness. “There are so many stories and histories that need to told!”
But as all these other Fil-Am actors struggle for their place in the sun, they are also met with their own personal challenges. For Eloisa, her role as a mother places demands that must constantly be balanced with her professional life. Being involved with a theatre project requires a singular focus and time commitment, but so does the all-consuming and loving investment of raising and being “there” for her family. She is forever grateful for her late parents’ help and support with this in their traditional Filipino manner, although they did not always agree or understand, especially at the beginning when she declared her major. Professional sacrifices are made.
Eloisa has had many different acting roles in her long, notable career. She began even while still in college by being cast in a touring play with Seattle Repertory Theater, directed by Daniel Sullivan, then incoming Artistic Director. Sullivan is now a prominent director in the New York theatre community. She also played, Ofelia, a Latina role in Anna in the Tropics. This play focuses on the effects of mechanization, the Great Depression, and the advent of cigarettes on the cigar industry in Ybor City. In the play, Ybor City is the cigar capital of the world. It was also about the arrival of an important “Lector” from Havanna who would read books and literature to the cigar rollers while they work; books such as Anna Karenina. Eloisa was also in The Tempest, a William Shakespeare play set on a remote island, where the sorcerer Prospero, rightful Duke of Milan plots to restore himself and his daughter, Miranda, to their rightful place using illusion and skilful manipulation. Eloisa played the role of Miranda.
Starting January 8, she will be Marian Boyle, mother to Rita Boyle, in ReAct Theatre’s production of Prelude to a Kiss at West Of Lenin Performing Arts Theatre in Fremont. This will be her third time performing this role, and the only cast member to be the sole actress in the same role in all three productions. Prelude To A Kiss tells the story from the point of view of protagonist Peter Hoskins about meeting Rita, falling in love and getting married despite Rita’s pessimistic outlook on life. On their wedding day, something supernatural happens that helps Rita and her husband Peter learn what it means to risk loving another person courageously no matter what. At a poignant moment in the play, Marion Boyle delivers timely words of wisdom on love and marriage.
Let us begin patronizing the theatre arts and discover that there are those in our community who are accomplished thespians, capable of award-winning performances.
I hope to see you all there.